Loving, living, leaving

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sixth Sunday in Easter-A, 14 May 2023
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 ><}}}*> 1 Peter 3:15-18 ><}}}*> John 14:15-21
Photo by author, sunrise at Katmon Nature Sanctuary & Beach Resort, Infanta, Quezon, 04 March 2023.

Jesus continues with his final teachings at their last supper on that Holy Thursday evening. This Sunday we hear him giving an aspect of his most important lesson of all which is to love: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments… In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him” (Jn.14:15,19-21).

Today is the last installment of the important lessons Jesus gave during their last supper because next Sunday will be his Ascension. That is why our gospel today is so compact and so rich we could summarize into three words – loving, living, and leaving.

Photo by author, sunrise at Katmon Nature Sanctuary & Beach Resort, Infanta, Quezon, 04 March 2023.

Loving is more than a feeling that may sometimes be high, sometimes low. Or even zero. Love is a decision, a choice we make everyday which we affirm with our actions, not just with mere words nor intentions. And the truest sign that we love is when we are able to love another person more than our self.

Love is having less of “I” and “me”, and more of “others”. If we put it in an equation, when the word “live” is replaced with an “o”, it becomes love. That is, to live is to love. When we love truly like Jesus Christ, that is when we are living meaningfully.

There comes a time in our lives that material things, even fame and name, honor and titles would no longer satisfy us. There comes a time in our lives when despite everything we have we still feel empty inside because no one is an island. No one lives by himself nor for himself alone. We live for others. We can never find our life’s meaning simply in ourselves. All our careers, passion, and dedication are propelled by our finding meaning in others that is why we serve, we sacrifice, we share and give ourselves to others.

It is difficult but that is the way it is with love. Love is always outward bound in movement, never inward. It is never private but always expressed with others. That is why Thomas Merton wrote that “Love is not only a special way of being alive, it is the perfection of life. He who loves is more alive and more real than he was when he did not love.”

The other Sunday we have reflected that when we love, there is the movement of getting nearer with the one we love which leads to oneness and unity so that his/her joy becomes your joy, his/her pain becomes your pain too. Hence, true love always entails suffering especially when more than being near, we become obedient to show and prove how far can our love go for our beloved. (See https://lordmychef.com/2023/04/29/jesus-the-good-shepherd-our-gate/)

That is why Jesus asked his disciples including us today to obey his commandments which is all about loving God through others.

Most of all, inasmuch as loving leads to living, deeper loving is found in every leaving. If we truly love Jesus, we must be willing to suffer too like him. And always, a greater part of that suffering in every loving and living is in leaving.

Photo by author, sunrise at Katmon Nature Sanctuary & Beach Resort, Infanta, Quezon, 04 March 2023.

Love entails suffering. Like life. From the very start we all came into this world in pain and suffering – kicking and crying from our mother’s womb to be alive. That is why it is proper the world has designated every third Sunday of May as mothers’ day because they know very well that love entails suffering. And the greatest suffering we go through in life, in love is leaving or separation.

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.

Simple words yet so mysterious. Literally speaking, Jesus was telling his disciples about his coming Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension. He is leaving them soon physically yet would remain with them, living with them so they would live fully. Leaving may be painful but it is also a prelude to a deeper relationship. As they say, absence makes the heart fonder.

Leaving is the most painful part of loving because every time a beloved leaves us, he/she takes a part of us, leaving us hollowed for the rest of our lives. The pain remains, leaving a hole in us. We merely transcend and move on but that hole remains. This is where loving and living become most challenging, most beautiful as they lead us to more amazing revelations as Christ had promised: “And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him” (Jn.14:21).

When we continue to love and live despite our loved ones leaving us, we soon realize that life is actually more of a series of coming than of leaving. When children leave home to go to college, they come to new sage in their lives; when they get married and leave home, they come to form their own family too! When a beloved leaves us in death, he/she comes to eternal life.

Meanwhile, we who are left behind live on, loving amid the pains of a beloved’s leaving, risking and hoping in love. That is when new things open up for us as we slowly discover many other things that do not necessarily replace the one we love and left us but actually make them more present in their absence. That is because we sooner or later find out that we have become like the ones we love who have left us! We are slowly transformed by their physical absence because their leaving had pushed us to love more that in the process, we have become like them. Is it not that is the reason of love, that we become like the one we love, be it God or another person?

Lately as I age, every morning as I looked at the mirror, the more I see my beloved late dad. Old relatives. especially his siblings and cousins always tell me whenever we would meet that I am a carbon-copy of my late dad.

That is how the gospel spread as we heard in the first reading: after the Pentecost, the disciples went on to love and live as Jesus had taught them. Many of them were like us who have never seen Jesus physically yet have kept on loving and living in him, being transformed somehow like him that caused many others to be added and kept in the fold of the Church.

Surely one of them who have mastered this art and grace of loving and living amid the many leaving are the mothers who made us experienced being touched and loved by God.

May we heed St. Peter’s call in the second reading to “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1Pt.3:15) making the Lord really present among us in little acts of kindness and goodness in this world filled with so many sins and evil that many wonder where God is. Our little steps of loving and living are like little candles in the dark; we may not see the whole path ahead but when we look back, we find we have advanced greatly, almost nearing our destination. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

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